Sunday, 27 April 2014

Race Report: Cheshire Classic

Natalie takes a look back at today's Cheshire Classic...

I'm writing this on a very small screen on my phone in a very packed van being driven by Clem. You'll have to excuse the typos as I pause to scream at her about her driving. We all have tired legs so tried to rig up a system where Clem would man the steering wheel with her feet up and I would lie at her feet operating the accelerator and brake but decided it was probably safer if I sat by her side and penned this instead :)

Today saw the iconic Cheshire Classic Road Race. Round 2 of the National Series. Lengthened this year to 12 laps of the cliff. 92k of windy yet sunny racing. If you've never seen the cliff it's pretty darn steep and pretty darn sharp. Riders were grinding to a halt left righ and centre. It's great! Organiser Andy Wood has done a fantastic job with the race bringing in phenomenal prize money. With a very strong line up and all that cash up for grabs the pace was bound to be a killer from the start.

Race prep had gone well last night with Lou making use of the restaurant's 2 meals for £10 offer by having both meals to herself. Sigma Sport had kitted us out with some amazing wheels, Mavic Cosmic Carbones, little beauties that they are and a perfect addition to our Cannondale SuperSix, or should I say SuperSexy. I was very glad to have them when the first few laps went off like a rocket. All eyes were on Laura Trott (WiggleHonda) and it looked like her sister Emma (Boels Dolmans) was doing a lot of work on the front for her. A dangeous looking break nipped off the front of Sarah Storey & Katie Archibald (Pearl Izumi Sports Tours Intertional) and Hannah Walker (Scott Epic) and I was pretty surprised when after a lap they were reeled back in.

Credit: Andy Mitchell
My brain is a bit addled with hard work and one too many MuleBar Cafe Cortado caffeine gels so it's hard to remember exactly what happened when. As Lou has just so eloquently put, you know you're knackered when you're eating a porridge pot made with cold water and using your fingers as a utensil!  She assures me it doesn't taste that bad! It's always going to taste better than an air freshener. That might sound strange but believe it or not yesterday on the way up we overtook a man on the M6 who was eating his Jelly Belly one. Weird. We even had to slow done in the fast lane to make sure that was really what we saw.

Credit: Andy Mitchell

I had a few digs off the front. I wasn't feeling great on the climb so with the fast pace all through the course I used the stretch up the duel carriage way to attack. The draggy gradient into the wind was suiting me much more. With about 3 laps to go when the eventual winner Katie Archibald and break away companion Hayley Jones were already up the road but still within sight I made a big attack and got a reasonable gap and felt like I was gaining on them. I had a Matrix Fitness Vulpine on my wheel who very frustratingly wouldn't come through. We were equidistant between the break and the bunch but without sharing the work there only so much I could do and eventually the bunch brought us back in.

I should mention the moment when I was being swallowed up by the bunch after one of my digs off the front and Penny Rowson kindly gave me a shove to get me back up to speed. This would have been marvellous except she shoved me straight into Alice Barnes' back wheel. A few doddery moments later I and everyone else was thankfully still upright. Molly Weaver exclaiming afterwards 'We're all going down!'

I really enjoyed the race, it was fast, attacking and the riding was good. Sadly I didn't have it when it mattered, the last time over that white line. Race finishes from a bunch is something I am not great at and this season changing that is a priority. I had a great position about 500 metres out from the last corner but found myself there too early. As ever I always learn a lot from a race and Clem was highest finisher from the team placing 13th in a fast, hard race. Bring on Bedford I say. Katie Archibald showed her might as a World Champion. Chapeau to her for being in a fair few breaks. Overheard in the changing room 'That girl is a monster!'

Right, so it looks like my assistance as co driver is needed. We've stopped at the M6 toll booths and Clem is struggling with clutch control. Thanks to her, Lou, Adel and Emily for being such great team mates another race and road trip of flipping hard cycling and lots of smiles and laughs.

Link to results and British Cycling race report here

Natalie xx

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